Experience of a Lifetime
The Experience of a Lifetime. That is a bold title to my spiritual journey that I have been living since it began in 2012. I assure you that all that is told here is the absolute truth although difficult to believe. This is the story of my encounters with the Virgin Mary, my unconquerable drinking problem, a widow maker heart attack, and open heart surgery.
These experiences have been the most Incredible experiences I could have. And yet, it has been a very difficult journey due to all of the changes that have taken place and there have been a lot of them.
It has also been rewarding beyond all imagination.
When something like this happens, the result is life altering. It has touched just about every single facet of my life. No stone was left unturned.
It is my hope that the reader can take something away from all of this that can aid or improve their spiritual life because this story is the absolute truth.
Table of Contents
I began having spiritual encounters with the Blessed Virgin Mary in early 2012 and I did not know, up until this point, anything of importance about her. I only knew that she was Jesus’ mother.
I had seen paintings of her and I thought she was very beautiful and very peaceful looking from an artist’s viewpoint, and I always had respect for her. I always thought she was special since she was Jesus’ mother. That is all I knew. Nothing about apparitions, visionaries, rosaries, or anything like that.
The encounters have had a tremendous effect on my life ever since and have been a huge asset to me. My dad passed away in 2013, I had a widow maker heart attack in 2017, my father-in-law passed away from a second heart attack in 2017, and my mother passed away in 2018.
The Holy Mother has been an anchor to me through all of this; she was with me every step of the way. She has also been personally involved with me from 2012 up to the present and I hope and pray that she continues to do so until my days are over.
This is a true story and it is about the Blessed Virgin Mary and my encounters with her, although I have to tell it from my viewpoint and it may seem like it is about me, it is not.
To be completely honest, part of this story is about living a life I thought was normal for everyone as being in the world, part about the change that happened to me as the Blessed Virgin made herself known to me and began to be involved in my life, and part is a love story. That is the only way to describe this.
The experiences that I have had with her are so incredible to me that I believe they need sharing and I have not been given any indication that she desires me to do otherwise.
I could never have imagined in my wildest dreams of anything like this would ever happen to me, ever. That is just what this is, a dream come true for me.
She is absolutely real and has been an indispensable inspiration and influence in my life.
This story is dedicated to her, my Holy Mother, for without her influence, her guidance, and her willingness to pull me out of the mess that I had gotten myself into, I would not be here today. To her, I owe and to her I plan to give.
How it all began – Childhood
Darlington, South Carolina
I was born into St. Matthews’s Episcopal Church and was baptized as a child there in 1960. My parents were regular middle-class people who worked hard to try to make ends meet to be able to raise four children.
I had an older sister, next came me, a younger sister, then a younger brother. My dad was an engineer at a local industry and my mother was a secretary at a local elementary school that I attended.
My childhood was not overly religious, but we did go to church every week. There were no major discussions on religious subjects in our household during the week. We had a very good life.
No alcoholism or drug use from either of my parents, no child abuse, nothing like that, not like is so prevalent today. They tried to raise us well and give us the best life possible.
In 1978, I graduated from high school and in 1987 I graduated from college in computer science. I married my wife in 1988, on September 3, and at the time I was already working at a local industry.
After marrying, we attended her church, Central Methodist, in Florence SC.
Then our first child was born, a daughter, we joined and attended Darlington Presbyterian Church and stayed there until 2017.
We then attended St. Matthew’s Episcopal again for the Eucharist until we became catholic in 2019.
The Blessed Virgin Mary - First Exposure
In 2012, I went to Barnes & Noble bookstore to look for new spiritual reading material.
I like to peruse the spiritual aisles and look for anything that was interesting to me. For some reason, this day I was already planning to buy something before I even entered the store.
On the way in, a faint voice said to me, “I want you to meet my family.” That is all it said. I never had that experience before and looking back on it now, I think it was quiet enough that it did not disturb me – I went on in wondering what the voice meant.
When I got inside, I could not decide what I wanted because nothing stood out. I found one book, one titled “Our Lady Of Kibeho”, that looked like it might be interesting and after I saw that one, the rest of them began to slowly lose any luster that they might have had a few minutes before.
Our Lady of Kibeho
It was somewhat odd with the picture of a woman on the front of the book that looked like she came out of the ancient world.
However, something about this one was different, kind of like a new type of book I had never read, something different in the subject class. It was not just the normal Christian book. I bought it, took it home, and put it on the bedside table.
There it sat for a few weeks until one day I picked it up and decided to read the first chapter. It did not take long before I was through five or six chapters and I had to put it down so I could get up the next day because of work.
The book was written by Immacculee Ilibagiza and was about the Virgin Mary and the apparitions in Rwanda preceding the Rwandan civil war.
It talked about Apparitions, Rosaries, and Visionaries listening to and seeing the Mother of Jesus. Moreover, these people, at least Immacculee and her family, were so devout. They were living it every day.
This was all new to me.
I could not understand why I had never seen anyone this devoted to any religious figure, let alone the Virgin Mary. I would wonder, long before I bought this book, why my faith was somewhat stagnant and I had a decent prayer life, at least I thought so but in reality, it probably was not.
After I finished the book, I could not help but think about how religiously devout the Rwandans were. I admired them and wanted to be like them. I wanted what they had.
It never occurred to me that the catholic end of it was relevant-that they were devout because they were catholic. Shortly after, I decided I would start praying the Holy Rosary. After all, they did it every day, why couldn’t I?
The Holy Rosary
I decided to look up how to do this … to pray the Rosary, of which I knew absolutely nothing about.
When I first began to look at the rosary, it was nothing but confusion to me. It overwhelmed me because so many prayers were involved. I did not know where to start.
It took me a few days to figure it all out, but I got there. I decided to layout each mystery from start to finish as a straight read through and I included all of the scriptures in between the prayers.
I would read the scriptures aloud and learn to say the prayers aloud. Everything I prayed aloud. The Joyous Mystery looked like the following:
Prayer before the rosary (O My Dearest Mother Mary)
The Apostle’s Creed
The Lord’s Prayer
3 Hail Mary’s
The First Decade – The Annunciation Of The Angel To Mary
And I listed all of the biblical references to the Annunciation right here so I would have a variety if I wanted and I also put the scriptures that are supposed to be used in red.
The Lord’s Prayer
10 Hail Mary’s
The Second Decade – The Visitation of Mary to Elizabeth
The Lord’s Prayer
10 Hail Mary’s
The Third Decade – The Nativity of Jesus at Bethlehem
The Lord’s Prayer
10 Hail Mary’s
The Fourth Decade – The Presentation of Jesus at the Temple
The Lord’s Prayer
10 Hail Mary’s
The Fifth Decade – The Finding of Jesus in the Temple
The Lord’s Prayer
10 Hail Mary’s
In the Name Of The Father
Rosary Ending Prayer
Fatima Prayer # 2
The First Week of the The Rosary - My Spiritual Journey begins
After a couple of days, I began to understand devotion to the rosary because it was taking me 45 minutes to complete and I was not used to this.
Three days later, I thought about quitting, however, I trudged on.
I did notice one thing that I liked about the rosary was that of the structure it provided. There was only a little place for a request and the rest was prayers passed down through the ages. I liked that. No more of a task list for God with request upon request and me not paying attention to what I requested as it was all forgotten shortly after never to remembered again.
This was a new beginning to my prayer life, and it was just what I needed. Unbeknownst to me, my spiritual journey was about to take off. On the 7th day after the first rosary, some very great things began to happen to me. At the time, I did not understand what was going on, but my life was being changed right before my very eyes. I did not ask for it either. It just happened and someone else was causing it.
The Blessed Virgin Introduces Herself in 2012
Seven days after I started praying the rosary, I took a shower to get ready for work following my morning prayers.
When I got out, I stepped into an extremely strong floral smell. It was so overwhelming. It was as if someone put 100 florists in a shoe box and took the lid off. This referred to as the Odor of Sanctity.
I did not know what to think because it was such a big surprise. It made the hair on my neck stand up. I stood there and thought, “I have never smelled this before and I am 52 years old.” The next thought was “This is supernatural.”
I left the room. Five seconds later, I returned, and it was gone. Completely. I had no idea what caused this.
The only thing that I knew to do was to research it. I spent a good part of the morning doing just that and I was having little success. There was not much information out there to be found. And then I stumbled across a website with testimonies from people who prayed the rosary and there it was.
It said there was a scent of Roses that people sometimes experience when praying the Rosary. It claimed that is associated with the Blessed Virgin Mary being nearby.
Once I read this, it overwhelmed me with 1,000 thoughts flying through my mind at once. The Virgin Mary? Why me? Why not someone else more deserving? “Why? Why? Why?” I asked myself.
Looking back to entering the Barnes and Noble, I realized she is the only member of Jesus’ physical family on earth and she is the only physical link between Jesus and me and everyone else, for that matter.
As I researched more and more in the next few days and weeks, I began to notice her name, Mary, was starting to show up more frequently as days went by. I was not used to this. I was protestant at the time.
There was also a presence there with me at all times and it lasted maybe 6 to 8 weeks. Everywhere I went, it was there. I could feel it. I even tried to make it go away, but it would not leave.
I was a heavy drinker at the time and even if I got intoxicated, it was still there. This was something that I believed was not supposed to happen as I was living in sin daily.
Effects of the Introduction
This event drastically affected the following areas and I have never been involved in anything like this before.
- Fear of Death
- Financial Interests
The largest obstacle I had to get over involving all of this was the reality of all of this. The question that I asked constantly was “Is this real?” That one question was being asked for weeks and even months. I could never understand why me? Eventually, I just quit with the why me stuff and just accepted it. It is what it is.
It was very difficult for me to accept this as being real. Not that it was false, but the reality of it was so big. It was the reality of all realities for any person to be exposed to. It was as if I just stepped into another world and that is exactly what had happened except the other world came to me. I was on a collision course with the Holy Mother.
I struggled with the reality of this the entire time the presence was near. It did not help that at night I would spend an hour reading the arguments of Catholics vs Protestants (i.e., sola scriptura vs. tradition, Mary worship and all of the rest) which caused a vacillation back and forth in trying to discover the truth. I could not get on solid footing.
This vacillation made me apprehensive and it was little steps that I cautiously took towards the Holy Mother, not great leaps.
It has taken a long time but for me to find the truth of all of this, I discovered, and it has always been in my experiences. The truth is … that she is real and my experiences are real whether I can handle that fact or not.
Distance – The distance between us narrowed instantly
Up to this point in my life, I viewed heaven as being located in a faraway land out in the universe somewhere. There was a great distance between “heaven” and I. My prayers had to travel a long way to get to their destination in my mind, or so I thought.
All of this changed immediately although it took me a while to notice.
When I began to perceive the changes, I noticed that everything was now local to where I am. Mary was here. Right next to me. She, in an instant stepped into my world. This was not an easy thing for me to deal with. That it was overwhelming is an understatement.
My focus was all on her and this was instant after the Odor of Sanctity (floral smell) happened. It was like my mind’s eye could see nothing but her. She occupied my mind at ALL times. This was a great spiritual gift.
If I wanted to speak to her, I could, just as I would a person in the physical world. However, I dared not because initially, I thought this could be demonic. I very apprehensive.
Fear of death disappears
Another thing that happened was that fear of death temporarily vanished. It just went away and it just became a “thing”. That is the only way I can explain it.
I could tell that my outlook on death had changed when someone close to me died. I was not nearly as upset as I had been prior. It was a lot easier to deal with. I now viewed it as part of the transition into the next life.
Financial (material) Interests Disappear
I also lost all interest in money and all things financial.
I remember sitting down at the end of the month and writing checks to pay the bills, I detested it, and it seemed like it lasted forever. Also, another irritation of mine was all of the financial commercials and car dealership commercials. There were so many of them on TV and during a commercial break, there might be two of them. I thought, against the backdrop of my introduction to real spirituality, this was unnecessary.
Then I found Medjugorje.
Not long after I found out about Medjugorje, I had a really strong pull to go there that I could feel very well and at this time I knew very little about it. The pull was a pulling in my mid section or stomach area. I have only felt this once and that was at this time and I have never experienced this since.
When this pulling feeling came, Medjugorje came to mind. She extended an invitation to me in 2012. I did not go there in 2012. At that time, my dad was in bad health with cancer and I did not know the Blessed Virgin very well.
Maybe her purpose was to plant seeds for the future. I do not know; she has never told me. One thing is for sure, she placed the desire in me to go there because ever since this happened, Medjugorje has been the only place on the planet that I have had a passion to visit.
Along with the effects I experienced above, I began to have illuminations. These were subjects or topics that kind of came to life and they were for whatever reason, exposed to me. They were very intense, very exciting and there was an elevation to the subject. The subject became so large and so important.
How it was presented was unbelievable to me.
The one making this happen was so gentle. I was never afraid. I was always very well treated. I was certainly treated a lot better than we (mankind as a whole) treat each other even when times are good and going our way.
I noticed the gentleness because it was glaring.
Each of the illumination subjects listed and explained below had these characteristics in common.
Holy Rosary Illumination
Around a week after the odor of sanctity, I was told it was called, I was sitting in my office at work and all of a sudden, like a light switch being turned on, everything began to change.
This time, I knew, this was initiated by an external source.
I repeat, it did not originate from me and it was not my imagination. The intensity and tremendous interest came with the following message (which was not spoken verbally but I clearly understood it), and the message was that I needed to pray every day and the rosary needed to be the prayer I was going to use.
Instantly, I knew it was one of the great personal prayers given to men and women. Praying the rosary every day was not a forced thing either. I all of the sudden wanted to do it and I have that same desire to this day. A common characteristic of my rosary praying was that when I finished, I wished I could go back to bed, go to sleep and wake up the next day, and pray it again.
Who gave us the rosary? Our Lady. In the 1200s, the church received the rosary from St. Dominic, who had received it from the Blessed Virgin as a means of converting sinners. Regardless of when it came to us, she was the avenue that it came to us through.
This illumination was just the beginning of my spiritual education. She is the leader and the teacher; I am the student and follower. That is the way it is today. I am guessing it will always be like this and I would not have it any other way.
Parable of the Hidden Treasure
Following the rosary illumination, I had another one on the parable of the hidden treasure that Jesus spoke about in the scriptures.
He taught, “Again, the Kingdom of Heaven is like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found, and hid. In his joy, he goes and sells all that he has, and buys that field.”
The holy scriptures were elevated to me as being one of the great gifts to mankind and that it is indispensable in helping us to live. The written word was shown to me as being the treasure.
I was already aware of that, but it was almost like a redefining or I did not understand this parable as well as I should have in the first place. My lifestyle sure did not lead someone to believe I understood it. This one was also very intense with extreme interest and easily determined that it was from an outside source.
Jesus and the Apostles Illumination
This illumination was about Jesus and the apostles and I was shown that they were the greatest men that ever lived. They laid the foundation for us to grow in the spiritual life. They were Greater than any president or any other person who walked this earth and they left behind the greatest help to humankind. It cost most of them, as history and tradition tell it; all but one of the original eleven were martyred. If they had not been, we would not have their examples today.
The Virgin Mary and the Decision She Made to Be Jesus’ Mother.
This occurred at My Dad’s memorial at Christmas and was not intense. This was more from a humble nature.
This was a big heart tug for me at Christmas time, my favorite time of the year, and it was the first time that I had really considered what she did and the blessing that has been given to us through this one act.
Would Jesus have been born another way if she had said no? She did not say no. We do not need to be concerned with the hypothetical when it comes to Mary. We only need to be concerned with the truth.
She said yes. She said yes to God’s son being born of her, so we could be forgiven. Being exposed to what I have been exposed to, I cannot even imagine the initial apprehension or the complete trust it would take to make a decision like that.
This was just the awakening to the spiritual and being spiritually alive. If you are spiritually alive then you contain spiritual light. One minute, the spiritual did not matter to me and the next there is an unquenchable desire for me to know everything I can about Jesus Christ and the Blessed Virgin.
This happened to me.
I have put a lot of time into learning about her and after seven years, I still cannot get enough. It never gets old. It never gets boring. There is nothing more I would rather do with my time than spend it learning about this.
Questions I Asked her
I would at the beginning, ask her questions, as my rosary request, and I would usually have my answer in the next day or two.
Some questions would go unanswered. Those questions that did not have any value in facilitating my spiritual growth were ignored. That kind went unanswered.
One of the first I asked was what is sin? I read the answer the next day in a private revelation. The answer was saying no to God. I do not know how many times I have seen that since.
There were four biblical subjects that I ran across that answered questions that I had and gave my faith a big boost. It was as if someone put them in my path. It was just what I needed at the time.
They were the red sea crossing (which captured my interest very quickly and set my faith on fire), the constellations and their name that tell the story of salvation or the story Of Jesus, the actual site of the crucifixion and burial site of Jesus, and the ark of the covenant. All of this was related to archaeology except the constellations but all of it was intriguing.
I found answers to questions I had for many years. Everywhere I turned, I found reality.
When I began to study the Virgin Mary and Catholicism, I ran across two apparitions that I immediately believed to be true. The first was our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico and the second was Our Lady of Good Success from Quito, Ecuador.
I always wanted to know how Catholicism got to Mexico and I finally found the real answer. Through Our Lady of Guadalupe. The story is fascinating and unbelievable. It may even be the largest revival that the world has ever known. I found a four-part series on Youtube called “Introduction to Our Lady of Guadalupe” and it told the entire story from beginning to end. It is worth checking out.
Our Lady of Good Success is from the 1600s and describes the world at the time of the 20th – 21st century that was tremendously accurate. It talks about the condition of the church and the moral landscape in the 21st century.
Simply amazing. If one does not think the Blessed Virgin is real, then all one has to do is examine Our Lady of Good Success. That is all it takes.
An Introduction to Catholicism
I began to study Catholicism in 2013 because I was reading a lot of private revelation and mystical messages for the Virgin Mary and they often spoke of catholic terms that I did not know the meaning of. I did not even know what the Mass was at the time.
So I bought a book or two on Catholicism and I began to read. I also went to Youtube and started watching videos and this sped up the learning process. I developed a learning knowledge of Catholicism at this time but it was still missing a lot. That was the way it was until I started RCIA in 2018. These learning tools were good but they were not as good as the current Catholics teaching the new Catholics.
Also at this time (2012), I was wary, being a protestant, what I might be getting myself into.
My grandfather who was born in 1907 came from a catholic family in Ohio, married a protestant, and was ostracized from his family. His parents kicked him out and he never saw them again. Catholicism had a bad name in my family from that but no one ever discussed it.
Being aware of this, I learned about the Blessed Virgin anyway because I knew, for a fact, she was real and I wanted to know everything about her that I could. After all, I had experienced her and that trumps everything that anyone has said or I have read, good or bad, about her since then. I was not going to be denied. I continued and pursued her.
My First Trip to the Shrine of Our Lady of South Carolina
I used to read and still do read a collection of messages called The Locutions to the World. They were posted and edited by Monsignor John Esseff, who was the spiritual director to Mother Teresa of Calcutta and his spiritual director in 1959 was Padre Pio.
I ran across a message that claimed that the Holy Mother said that if one visited a Marian shrine, especially if they had an addiction, there would be blessings. I said to myself “I am going to find a shrine and try that.” I started looking and found one that was about an hour away from my home and it was located in Kingstree, South Carolina. I checked the hours and drove down there one Sunday. I was still protestant at the time.
After I arrived, I tried to open the door, but it was locked. I thought to myself, I would have to try again another day and I turned to leave, and the door slowly opened and Fr. Smolenski let me in. I told him bits and pieces of my story and I had a thousand questions and started to reel them off.
I think I overwhelmed him with all of the questions and the fact that I was protestant and interested in Mary probably took him aback. He answered some of them and said I could come back at another time because they were closing. We exchanged email addresses and I left.
Note: It was not an easy decision to do this. Before I arrived at this shrine, I was very uneasy about the entire trip but I had to do it to get my answers. It seems most decisions involving Catholicism in some way were not easy ones.
Heavy Alcohol Consumption through Most of My Life
Through my encounters with the Blessed Virgin until 2017, I was a heavy drinker. It was only beer that I drank, thank goodness. Like most people that get hooked on alcohol, I started in my teens and worked my way up the drinking ladder.
Parties and socials were a way of catching a buzz and the people that were there were never the reason for me attending. It was the alcohol that I came for. Alcohol was a part of my life up to age 57. It became my reward and my crutch. A reward for a good day’s work and a crutch when things did not go so well. I used this method to make sure I got my drink no matter how my day went.
My work schedule is from 7:30 am to 4:00 pm and every single day when I got off, the pull would start for me to stop on the way home and get my daily supply of alcohol medication, my cigarettes, and my headache powders to get rid of the headache I would have in the morning after drinking the beer. This was an everyday occurrence.
If I tried to skip a day, the pressure would get so intense that I would cave to the addiction. Granted, some who have been addicted also might consider my addiction light, but for me, it was enough. 4 beers a night to start, then graduating to 6 then to 7 or 8 and go to work the next day and on the weekends 12 in 2 to 3 hours.
This went on for some forty or so years. It never ended. If I did not have anyone to drink with, that was fine, I would just do it by myself … every day no matter how hot or how cold it was. For some reason, I never brought my drinking habit inside. I remember sitting outside with temperatures in the 20’s and above 100 just to do this.
Two Very Important Incidents
A few years after I met Our Lady, I began to want to quit the beer drinking, but I could not. I was getting tired of the inconvenience also of having to stop every day on my way home to pick up my vices.
There were a couple of incidents with The Blessed Virgin that I had that were related to this lifestyle I was leading.
The first one occurred on a Sunday afternoon while I was watching someone teach a class on the early church. I was recovering from a hangover. I think it was a class in seminary, but I am not sure where.
I began to think about how I had lived and the life I had created for myself and the contrast with where I wanted to be (clean and free). I got mad. I started talking and berating myself with comments like “I am nothing but a complete waste. Nothing but a sorry drunk who cares about no one but himself getting his fixes every day.”
Then I addressed her. I said, “And I don’t know why YOU would pick so a worthless person to be around”.
Much to my surprise, she responded. She spoke to me. She said, “Because I Love You.” That one statement was so overwhelming to me. That was all that she said. She really gave me something to think about.
I noticed that she finished the conversation, and this was a confirmation for me. Engaged in dialog with me. I was in the bathroom by then and I just stood there for about 5 minutes looking in the mirror thinking about what had just happened. I was blown away, literally. Then I said, “I don’t know how much more of this I can take.” I just walked away.
For the next few days, this incident weighed very heavily on my mind, but I did not share it with anyone for a long, long time.
I decided to reciprocate. One morning after my daily prayers, I said to her “And most of all, I want you to know that I love you.” She spoke again. She said, “If you love me, why do you do these things?” She was referring to all of the self-destructive behaviors and habits that I had. It was a long time before I told her that again.
I found this note in a file that I recorded in 2016.
I have started to want to get rid of this bad habit in late 2015 and early 2016. I feel like I am turning against it and I feel the pressure to cut it out. I cannot say how much success I will have.
Ever since she said, “If you love me, why do you do these things?” I knew I needed to get rid of this alcohol problem and I wanted to do what she desired of me. I began to try, and I had no success. I had always told myself that I could quit whenever I wanted to, that I was not addicted.
That was all a lie and I believed it.
Addicts are the world’s greatest liars and usually, the audience they have is themselves. They lie to themselves and they believe it. Day after day, I began to realize that I was in trouble, trapped by a 12 oz. can. That little can had power over me.
The other incident occurred in late 2016 or early 2017. I was under my garage, after about eight or nine drinks down, and deep in thought about my problem. Out of desperation, kind of talking to myself, I finally admitted it aloud. Finally.
I said, “I cannot quit. I am addicted.” A voice spoke to me it said, “You are right where you are supposed to be”.
This made no sense to me at all. None whatsoever. However, being used to hearing voices talk to me by now, I just thought, “Ok I guess I am right where I am supposed to be” and I went to bed. I just accepted it and never questioned it. For the next few days, I dwelt on this experience.
One morning I made a request of her and this request was important although I did not know how much it at the time. I said, “I want you to be involved when I quit. I want you to be the reason I quit when it happens.” I soon forgot about this request. She was my world at this point.
Our Lady had pretty much monopolized just about all of my thoughts from the beginning of these encounters. It was as if she moved in and was there at every moment with one long thought and the thought was of her. Initially, this was very difficult to get used to. My thoughts were always with her.
Every day, all day long from awakening in the morning until sleep at night, she was in my thoughts. I was connected to her. She was with me everywhere I went all during the day. Every morning when I awoke, she was there and when I went to sleep, she was there. This phenomenon has never subsided completely. It just decreased in strength.
On 2017-06-11, I had a golf match at 2:00 pm at a local golf course. After teeing off on the 1st hole, I drove a friend and me to our second shot. Before we got 100 yards down the fairway, I was out cold.
My friend started hitting me but there was no response. He grabbed the wheel, steered us to the clubhouse, and began yelling for CPR.
There happened to be an EMT at the pool who had arrived 5 minutes earlier, brought his children out to join the pool so they could swim for the summer. He had also done a tour in Afghanistan as a medic. He was 6’ 7” and 270 pounds or so.
He started working on me as they called 9-1-1. My friend would later tell me, I was gone. Unresponsive. He thought for sure that I was dead.
The ambulance arrived and they loaded me up. On the 10-mile trip to the hospital, they put me on a ventilator, and I fought them. The medic in the ambulance could not guarantee my wife anything but told that I had fought them and that it was a good sign.
When my wife saw me for the first time, she said I was grey, somewhat dark, laying on a table. The first thing that the doctor wanted to do was a heart catheter. That was the only way to be 100% sure of what had happened, and which arteries were clogged.
It took the staff 2 hours or so to perform this. My daughter, who was an ICU trauma nurse at the time, knew it was not normal to take this long, saw the room after they wheeled me out and said there was blood everywhere, even on the floor.
My understanding is that they could not stop the bleeding after they did the catheter procedure. I think they had to give me a blood transfusion to keep me from bleeding to death. This was due to the headache powders I had been taking every day.
I saw none of this. I was in a grey, what seemed to be fog, waiting to see Jesus and the Blessed Virgin.
I was so excited, that when what seemed like an announcement of “the time for forgiveness is over”, I paid no attention to what that meant.
All I knew was that I was going to get to see them face to face. I was like a kid on Christmas Eve, literally. The excitement was tremendous. It never happened, or I do not remember it. All I could do was accept that they wanted me down here and that took a couple of weeks to sink in.
I woke up 2 days later; I think it was, with all my faculties working. I had suffered a widow maker heart attack. Most people do not survive this, I was told.
Me by Thursday after Widow Maker on Sunday
There was what seemed like a dozen or so needles in my arm and my family told me that I was being obnoxious around Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday but I could not tell it. I guess it was the medication that was making this happen.
I remember nothing of the whole week except that of the faces of my family and that my mom came to see me. The nurses made me get up and walk around the perimeter of the floor I was on and the first time I did it, it was tough. It felt like forcing yourself to walk around the block with the flu. I was so weak. I was supposed to do it twice a day and the more I did it the easier it became.
One very interesting thing that I learned being in a serious medical situation was that if I did not experience something, then I did not understand what had happened. Being the patient, I missed all of the emotional fallout. For me it was like it never happened.
I did not understand the effects it had on other people like my family. I had no idea what it was like to see my spouse or my dad in a state where he looked like he was dead.
I just woke up and said, “What are y’all doing here?” I could not get upset about the situation because I had not experienced it and sometimes, I felt guilty about this.
Recovery from the Heart Attack
After arriving home from the hospital, my daughter was at my house along with my wife and they were in another room. I had to have a shower, so I decided to take one.
It exposed how tired I was because after maybe 2 minutes it took everything I had just to stand up. I was hanging on to the shower handles for dear life. I just wanted to lay down and go to sleep but I thought if I did, I might not be able to get back up.
I fought hard and I made it through, somehow. When I got out of the shower, I was so cold. I put on a pair of sweatpants and a sweatshirt, got under the covers in my bed, and went to sleep for six hours and when I woke up, I felt a lot better.
Cardiologist Office Appt
A couple of weeks later, I had my initial visit to the cardiologist’s office. As we sat in the waiting room, it was a strange feeling as I came real close to not being there. The Holy Mother was on my mind now as she always is. I was not worried about my visit a bit.
I just looked around at the people in there and I thought, “I wonder how many people in this room, recently died in the blink of an eye, and are in here today?” “I wonder how many people are not in here today because they died and didn’t make it back.” “I wonder how many people in this room love Our Lady.” Those are the kind of things I sat and thought about.
And my attitude was good. My attitude impressed me the most and I know that if I had not had the experiences I had with The Blessed Virgin, it would have not been this way.
They called us back. We went into the examination room, and the doctor was already in there sitting in front of the computer in the corner looking at it. What seemed like an eternity had passed and no one spoke so I decided to break the ice and what I wanted to say was “how are you doing today?” but that is not what came out of my mouth. What came out was “how much damage was there?”
He responded “None”. I could not believe it. It was a miracle pure and simple. No heart damage, no brain damage or any other kind of damage. I left looking forward to rehab although I was still weak. I had much to be thankful for.
Afterward, I sat around the house all day up to this point, it was getting old, and I was getting bored. There was a slight fear in getting outside and maybe not making it back inside because I had fallen out somewhere. After another week of that, it was time to get moving on taking the recovery seriously.
I had a decision to make on how I was going to live. The question I had to address was, “am I going to live in fear and be afraid to exert myself because I might have another heart attack and maybe die this time, or was I going to be myself and be challenged and do whatever it takes to return to health through exercise and being active?”
The answer was easy but the path to the decision was tough because I was still working and supporting my family and I could not just let that part of life go down the drain. One of the key lessons that I learned is that you have to live life and you have to live it being yourself – for you. If I had sat around in fear, I would have been miserable because I am an active person and I have to have activity.
I wanted to go to rehab and push myself to do my best. When I was walking around the neighborhood, I would push to do my best. When I started riding my bike again, which was at this point, I would push and do my best. I have a 24-speed road bike that I rode 3 times per week, and I wanted to start riding again. My wife called the cardiologist’s office and asked them if I could start again. They said yes, to my surprise.
After the third trip, the angina returned, although it was not very strong, so I made an appointment and returned to the cardiologist. They ran some tests, determined that it was time for open-heart surgery, and scheduled it.
There were maybe 3 or 4 days until the surgery was to be performed. One would think that all of that time sitting around and thinking about this possible life-changing event would tend to make me negative or angry or depressed because the life that I have could be cut short, but this did not occur. I did not worry about it very much because I did not think about it.
As I said before, my thoughts are on the Holy Mother – she is always on my mind – constantly. A single minute does not go by that she has not crossed my mind a few times.
There is also a feeling of my being connected to her. As if, I am walking with her every day. She is not far away. She is with me. That is what this is like and it never goes away. This is a tremendous gift.
It is the greatest gift I have been given in this life and Jesus himself gave it when he said, “I want you to meet my family.” This one act has brought me the greatest of joy, many mind-blowing experiences, a sense that I belong to her and more love than one can imagine.
I have discovered, through the experiences that this Lady is completely capable of helping me to get through the hard times in this life and taking me much further than I can imagine.
The experiences that I have had with her are completely beyond my wildest imagination.
Naturally, I am very drawn to her. I do all of the things most people, especially those who know nothing about her, say not to do. I talk to her daily and any other time that I want to. She is in my thoughts constantly throughout the day. I pray a Hail Mary before I get up in the morning and before I go to sleep at night. I pray the Holy Rosary every morning.
What a wonderful journey life has become just because, as a priest told me, I opened up to her spiritually. I will continue on this path until it ends, and I knew that from the time of the odor of sanctification. So, what was there to be afraid of when it came to this surgery if I had all of this?
Open Heart Surgery
My open-heart surgery was set for August 16, 2017, but I had to be there on the 15th to have another heart catheter done. Then I would spend the night there and have the surgery the next day in the morning. It turned out that the surgery did not start until mid-afternoon though.
On the morning of August 16th, the charge nurse came in and told me that she was going to assign her best nurse to me. The other nurses would come in and ask who the surgeon was, and I would tell them. They would reply “Oh he’s the best here at this hospital. You are in good hands.” Again, my attitude was very positive.
I began to get an odd feeling. I began to feel like someone had come before I got there and set this up behind the scenes. Trust me, I knew that all of the gambling pools I had ever participated in I lost, and no raffle tickets that I bought panned out. To me, life was like pushing the rock up the hill.
However, in heart attacks, I won. By the time the surgery started, I knew I was going to be fine and come through this A-ok. I had too many miracles to happen to me just to go on and have my life taken. Most of all, My Lady was close by.
Operating Room and Recovery
I was rolled into the operating room around mid afternoon and it was cold in there. When I first got there, I was freezing. However, they put some warm blankets on me and that helped a lot. Not much happened after that, except I said a prayer before the lights went out and that was it.
Waking up at 11:45 pm that same night, I was so disoriented and really tired. I looked down at the foot of my bed and there sat my nurse. She was dedicated to me. One per patient. I could not take being awake any longer, I dozed off again.
This time I woke up at 04:30 am on a Thursday and the first thing that came to mind was Our Lady. I remember this just like it was yesterday.
Next, and I do not know how long this took but I sat up in the bed. The nurse rushed over thinking something undesirable might happen and I put my arms around her and hugged her. I had made it. I was content. Then she brushed my teeth and gave me something to drink. That was one of the nicest things anyone had ever done for me, brush my teeth.
On my first recovery day, I remember seeing my family for just a second, but the rest of the day was a blur. I had to go through the same practice again of walking the halls, just as I did after the heart attack until I left the hospital. We left the hospital on Saturday at noon. Boy was I glad to get out of there, go home, and get some real food.
Open Heart Surgery Recovery
Visit to the Surgeon’s Office
A week to 10 days after the surgery, I had an appointment with the surgeon. I could not drive until he had given me permission to do so. We went in and were called back after a short wait. The nurse took us into the examination room and opened my file and started reading it.
A couple of seconds later she said, “Mr. Rogers, you know you are a miracle. Very few people survive what you have survived.” I responded, “Yes ma’am I have been told that a few times recently.”
She told me in medical terms what all of this meant but I do not recall what she said or all of the words she used. The surgeon came in shortly after that and it became all business. After about ten minutes and a lot of questions, I was free to go with driving rights returned.
I Will Do It For You
A couple of weeks later, which would put the date around the first week in September, one of the most remarkable things happened to me that I will never forget involving the Holy Mother.
Remember, I was a big drinker and the temptations would start every day at 4:00 pm. I noticed that I had not even thought about beer and cigarettes in over 6 weeks. A very slight temptation came to me and I thought, “A beer and cigarette would sure be good about right now.”
I could drive if I wanted to and had been running short errands, so I could easily have gone to get it if I wanted to.
However, I started thinking, that if I knew Mary was real then Jesus was real. Also, if Jesus is real one day there is going to be a judgment for me.
I pictured that event with him on the throne and her standing to his right. I had picked up all of my bad habits again (started drinking and smoking) and he looked at me and said “Charles, we did everything we could for you. I removed the temptation. You had my Mother with you. Why did you decide to start back?”
I did not answer him.
Mary’s head dropped in disappointment. I began to weep. I sat there and cried like a baby (every time I think about this to this day, I start crying, I cannot help it).
I realized at that moment, what she means to me and that I belong to her. I am her child. I felt very strongly in that split second, that if that happened if I started back, it would be an eternal regret that I would never get over. Ever.
I would miss her for eternity.
I spoke aloud and I said to her “I am going to quit for you because I love you and I belong to you.”
I remembered the prayer I had prayed a long time ago, “I want you to be involved in my quitting. I want you to be the reason I quit when it happens.” Jesus allowed this to happen to me and I am extremely grateful to him for this.
This day I became hers.
Return To Work
I started back to rehab in September, and it ended in December and I went back to work full time on September 25, 2017.
It took about 6 months for my mind to be function decent and another 6 months to for it get back to normal, but I finally made it. I have a desk job and count on my memory a lot and I could easily tell, sometimes it just wasn’t there. I had to be patient and it was hard.
I have to say Jesus has been very, very good to me and sometimes I ask him, expecting an answer, how he knew what would turn me around. He never answers. He probably just smiles when I ask that. One thing is for sure, He knew, and He still knows.
I always thank him for the greatest gift he has given me. His mother.
Converting To Catholicism
I planned to go Medjugorje in 2019, and in September of 2018, I was still protestant and that meant that if I made the trip then I could not participate in the Eucharist.
At the same time, I was walking around with this incredible story and all of the people that I tried to tell it to showed little to no interest in hearing it. That included my family members.
Between 2012 and 2018, I gradually felt like I did not belong in the churches that I had been a member of. Everything had changed. I wanted to be where Our Lady was welcome and respected. That is where I belonged and if I was going to Medjugorje I better make the jump now, I thought.
I had a meeting with a man in a business in Florence SC. My sister went with me, and we were all in his office discussing business and he volunteered the fact that he was catholic. I said, “Boy have I got a story for you”. I started telling my story to him and he called his associate in.
This conversation about Mary went on for an hour and a half. It was great. The person knew the RCIA director at the larger Catholic Church in Florence SC and gave him a call for me.
The church got in touch with me and I went to my first RCIA class that week. My wife followed the next week and that is how we started.
I had to become Catholic to understand it.
After becoming Catholic, I realized why I really could not grasp it before by just reading about it. It was because to understand what Catholic is I had to be a catholic … I had to live it. I read a lot about Catholicism in books and on the internet to attempt to understand what it is but, I really could not understand it until I became a catholic.
There seems to be something to it that cannot be seen. That may be why many people condemn Catholics and catholic practices because they do not understand and can’t until they join the Catholic church and that will never happen in their minds. That is unfortunate because many people are missing a lot.
You would think that since I have been around Mary for some time that I would not be apprehensive about joining the Catholic Church, but I was. If I did not know Mary, I would never have even attempted to go down this path.
I do not know why the apprehension was there, but I felt very strongly that this is where she wanted me to be for whatever reason she had. I just had to trust her, and she has never let me down before this time.
I started with RCIA with intentions to join the church but not completely committed. Every Wednesday night we (my wife and I) were there.
We were really into it and we also had some good teachers who explained the topics very well. We joined the church on 2019-04-20 in the most impressive service I have ever been involved in even though it lasted for 2 hours. Being Catholic has been a great grace to my wife and I. It has brought us closer together and there is so much to learn and it remains a frequent topic of discussion for us.
Receiving permission to speak in the Charleston SC diocese
I was exchanging emails with Fr. Stan one afternoon on 2019-07-17 as I was discussing my invitation to Medjugorje from Our Lady that I received in 2012. I then began to talk about The Blessed Mother, just kind of rambling to him about her and alluding to the fact that she had played a major and active part in my everyday life since 2012. He became very interested very quickly and asked many questions about what had been going on concerning her.
He showed a desire to write an article for the National Catholic Register depicting the avenue through Mary, that Donald Calloway (Catholic Priest), Roy Shoeman (Catholic converted from Judaism), Claude Newman who was executed in the 50’s for murder that came to a devotion of Our Lady, and me who converted from Protestantism.
He did this and the article called “4 Non-Catholics who encountered Jesus through Mary”, was published in the National Catholic Register blog on August 22, 2019. He then asked me to speak and tell my story to the Marian Rosary Celebration on October 26, 2019, in Kingstree SC, of which I accepted.
In order to speak, I had to have the bishop’s approval. In answer to a letter written by Fr. Smolenski, permission was granted to speak at the Marian Rosary Celebration in Kingstree for October 26, 2019, and also permission was granted to speak anywhere in the diocese if permission is obtained from the local pastor. Below is a copy of that letter from the bishop.
I finally made it to Medjugorje in October of 2019. My motivation for making this trip was from the invitation that Our Lady extended to me in 2012 and at that time I hardly knew what this place was and certainly I could not pronounce the name of it.
The invitation, as I said before, came as an undeniable pulled in me and I could definitely feel this. I felt, ever since this experience, an obligation to Mary to make this trip as a small token of my appreciation to her for what she has done on my behalf.
I traveled alone because my wife ran out of vacation, but it was the best way for me to do it because I was able to do what I wanted and come and go as I pleased. I did not experience any miracles although I saw some happen to some of the friends, I met on the trip but I did smell the fragrance of flowers a few times. I saw the sun spin and I also saw a rosary that had turned to gold from silver that belonged to one of my friends. I examined the rosary several times.
I was fortunate enough to have listened to two of the original visionaries talk to the group I was with and explain how things happened back in 1981. Daily, I attended mass and prayed the rosary numerous times. We had a guide who addressed what it was like for the people of Croatia to live under communism and socialism and to live after communism was gone. This seemed to be a very important message as both visionaries also addressed this and made it clear that communism disappeared after Our Lady’s apparitions had started.
There is much to be gained from going to Medjugorje, and yes, I agree that it is a place where Heaven and Earth meet. Remember, this is the place where some of the most monumental apparitions the world has known began and are still going on. I recommend going here to anyone interested.
The Five Stones of Medjugorje
As I said before I visited Medjugorje in October of 2019 and there are 5 things that we as Catholics should be practicing according to Our Lady.
They are listed below:
Confession – Medjugorje is labeled the confession capital of the world and when I was there were many (like 50 or better) priests available for confession.
Holy Rosary – The rosary should be prayed at the least once per day.
Holy Scriptures – The scriptures should be read daily.
Holy Eucharist – Weekly
Fasting – Fasting is done with bread and water only on every Wednesday and Friday (the days that the early church used for fasting), according to the Didache (an early church document explaining the practices of the early church).
My Incredible Spiritual Journey, The Experience of a Lifetime - Conclusion
The last seven or now eight years have been a long journey for me if I think about the events that have occurred. Encounters with the Virgin Mary and later speaking with her, being a drunk and recovering, heart attacks and recovery, open heart surgery and recovery, traveling to the other side of the world just because she asked. All of this has been beyond my wildest imagination.
At first, I thought, after discovering who she was, that this experience was going to be like spending a week as a 15 year old boy with his long lost aunt of 75 that had never married. Complete boredom.
But this was anything but that. This was the most exciting times of my life. I found her to be different than I expected. She was non-condemning, she was gentle, she was loving, she was protective, and she short leashed me at first (it took me a while but I figured that out) but before all was said and done I would follow her anywhere.
When it came to my salvation, she was all business.
She had ideas for me that required me to trust her although I didn’t at first. What she had to offer, I could not get enough of. I woke to her, I went to sleep to her. She was there all day long. She was always there. This went on.
Although I am portraying this as a great adventure and it was and still is, it needs to be known that this interrupted everything … my entire life. The day she showed up at 6:30 am in my bathroom, my entire life changed at that very moment.
At that time I was as a little child, fists clinched tight hidden behind my back as if keeping something from her. Now it is different; palms open facing upward out front. She can have what she wants as I will gladly give it to her.
I read a lot about her back then and unfortunately some people refer to her in less than pleasing ways and are determined that they are right. I went to Medjugorje where the “hoax” is and where the visionaries are wealthier than the rest of the common people and it is all about money.
The visionaries were not all about money, but the person making that statement was. Blinded by money. We only see what we want to see. I have seen Medjugorje. I have smelled it. Medjugorje is real. I can tell when people just comment on Medjugorje and have never been there.
Same with her. I can tell when people just talk about her but don’t have any idea of whether it is true or not. You can tell when people are just repeating things that they have heard before. Its not hard. But if I had never been there, I would not be able to do that.
A lot of people are wrong about her. I know. I have been through some tremendous life experiences with her. Some of them kill people. She was there and I was there along with my entire family. I never at one time thought about things not coming out right or worrying about it. It never entered my mind.
When you wake up, post open-heart surgery at 04:30 am and the first thing that comes to mind is Jesus’ mother, why is that? What makes that happen? I don’t have an answer, but I experienced that.
I experienced a lot of things, lots of miracles that I didn’t deserve. I don’t deserve to be here, but I am. Is she real? Absolutely. Can she see us? Yes. Can she hear us? Yes. Does she love us? Yes. Is she like us? No. She is not like us.
We are judgmental. We are condemning. We are critical. We are never satisfied with what we have and always want what someone else has. We are hateful. We are cruel. We crush. We kill.
She does none of this. All she does is ask us to pray and keep our souls clean. The Rosary, please pray it she asks. Be kind. Go to confession if you are catholic. Fast. Read the scriptures. Be as clean as possible spiritually.
I know what I have been given but that doesn’t make me any better than anyone else or more holy than anyone else. We are all in the same boat together.
I quit with the behavior that she doesn’t like, and I am happier for it. I pray every day as she asks, and I am more content. I fast on Wednesdays and Fridays (sometimes) and I get stronger.
The more I do that she asks of everyone, the better off I am. The only difference between me and you is that I feel like I owe her because I am still here and no heart damage or brain damage or any kind of damage. If it were not for her, this would not be so.
A lot of people have trouble with me giving her this much credit. I give credit where it is due. She does not perform miracles and she does not forgive sins. But there is an area we must pass through between baptism and heaven and she assists those ask her for her assistance through this. I am a walking miracle and I have been through this area. People do not know what they are missing.
The Virgin Mary stepped into my life and completely turned it around. Didn’t ask for any of this. It just came. I will be honoring her daily just as I do now. I will do my best to do as she asks as long as I am here on this planet.
It has been the greatest experience I could have – The Experience of a Lifetime – because she has been part of it.